Swiss avalanche deaths at 60-year low

Rescuers search for avalanche survivors in Andermatt in December. Keystone / Urs Flueeler

The number of people killed by avalanches in the Swiss Alps fell significantly last winter. Experts say less dangerous snow conditions, plus a large slice of luck, saw just five people losing their lives in 2019/2020 compared with an average of 18 deaths each winter.

This content was published on April 7, 2020 - 11:43

This is the lowest figure since the 1959/1960 winter season.

The Institute for Snow and Avalanche ResearchExternal link (SLF) reported on Tuesday that 128 people were caught up in 89 avalanches last winter. Property damage was recorded in 112 of the cases. Over the past 20 years, the annual average number of people and properties hit by avalanches has been 175 and 168 respectively.

The SLF says that a good build-up of snow cover in January, combined with rainfall and milder temperatures, played a part in restricting the number of serious avalanches. While the number of high avalanche risk days was roughly the same as previous winters, inclement weather conditions tended to that good fortune, they said.keep people indoors on those days.

Researchers conclude that fewer winter sports enthusiasts would have been on the slopes, or off-piste, at times when there was a great risk of triggering an avalanche.

The SLF also said in its report that pure chance probably contributed to the accident and fatality numbers being so low during the winter. For example, there was only one avalanche over the whole winter in which more than one person died. This cannot be explained by any other reason

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